Perritte Memorial UMC Launches Fine Arts Outreach Program for Students

Date Posted: 2/9/2017

Thanks to a grant from the Moody Endowment, Perritte UMC in the East District is offering group music lessons as an outreach initiative to local elementary students.
Where there’s a will – and grant money – there’s a way.
“I often had students asking to be taught how to play the piano, but they could not afford private lessons,” shares teacher Nicole Stewart, who also serves Perritte UMC as music director. “On a whim, we applied for the Moody Endowment grant to start the after school outreach program we are calling Crescendo Academy of Fine Arts.” Nicole, Pastor Lani Rousseau and the committee of volunteers received news of the grant in August and the program already serves almost a dozen students. “Our capacity is 30 students, which would allow 10 third, fourth or fifth graders in each activity at a time,” explains Administrative Assistant Susan Teekel. The church is also offering scholarships for qualifying families.
The initiative even landed the church in the local newspaper
For a nominal fee, students participate in a three-station Fine Arts rotation that is comprised of a 30-minute group piano lesson, 30-minute art class and 30-minute group ukulele lesson. Students are bussed from three elementary schools to the church and given a snack before they start their lessons.  “The grant funded full-sized keyboards, ukuleles, art supplies and equipment in three upstairs classrooms that will be devoted to Crescendo Academy of Fine Arts,” Nicole adds.
“With so many schools sacrificing Fine Arts in exchange for testing intervention, we thought this was a perfect opportunity for Perritte to step in an fill the gap for children who excel in these areas,” adds Nicole. The Academy has 10 Casio Suzuki keyboards in the piano lab. Shinichi Suzuki, inventor of the international Suzuki methods is known for this inspirational thought, “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop discipline, sensitivity and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
Rev. Barbara Robberson, interim pastor at Perritte Memorial UMC describes the new outreach ministry as “joy-full noise.” Adds Barbara, “On Monday afternoons at Perritte Memorial UMC, the church bus pulls up and 11 joy-full kids come literally bouncing in the door carrying school books and ukuleles. The energy never ceases until they leave the doors at 5:30. During the time they are with us, they are fed and allowed to relax for a few minutes before heading off to classes in art, piano, and ukulele taught by three passionate, well-trained teachers.
As the word spreads through the community, we are hoping to have a full house of 30 children in the near future. Scholarships are even available for those who cannot afford the tuition. It is an outreach ministry with a plus because, when parents arrive to pick up their kids, they are greeted by church members and offered a time of their own to relax or to visit. We are getting to know them, and to share with them all the other opportunities that are here for families to grow in faith. Thanks be to God for those with the dream for this ministry and those who give of their time and energy to make it happen."